Monthly Archives: May 2013

Do We Want Deep Change?

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Appreciative Inquiry

Yes, there are all kinds of challenges and problems we can invest our time attempting to solve.  Some see themselves as ‘problem solvers’.  Earlier in my career, I saw myself as a relatively good ‘problem solver’.

Today, I can still ‘solve problems’.  More often now,  I choose to frame the situations I encounter through an appreciative frame.  I do this because I have come to know that ‘problem solving’ is linear, and thus somewhat limited, in nature.   Approaching this same situation through a frame of Appreciative Inquiry will lead to a potentially difference and, in my mind, richer response.

To frame a situation (what some might call a problem) appreciatively can be seen as taking four steps.

First, think seriously about the situation and focus on what is right about the situation.  Collect all of these thoughts about what is positive about the circumstance.

The second step is to dream big about the desired state that could be in the future given that fact that you are starting from the current  situation.  Really stretch your thinking – dreams are not small incremental next steps – dreams are bold!  Dreams are compelling possibilities!  Dreams excite people to invest in making them real!

Then get focused on designing plans to move toward making the dream a reality.  The plans may, and likely will, be at the  ‘first step’ or ‘second step’ level – obviously, those steps are important and worth taking – knowing that their may be a ‘sixteenth’ or ‘twenty sixth’ step to move toward and reach the desired goal. Let the ‘journey’ towards the goals begin!!!

And, then, as steps are taken toward the goal it is important to be willing to adjust and improvise along the journey.  Destiny is achieved when we listen to our inner voices and respond.

Appreciative Inquiry can be practiced by individuals or by groups.  The interdependent thinking that develops when group’s embrace this process is empowering.  It is very exciting to be going through the appreciating, dreaming, designing and moving toward the collective destiny with others!

Appreciative Inquiry is a positive approach to framing ‘what is’ and ‘what might be’.  And it remains positive in the design, implementation and adjustment of the plan to reach the dream.

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Groups – Cooperation – and the number of Women in the Group

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According to Science Daily:“When it comes to intelligence, the whole can indeed be greater than the sum of its parts. A new study co-authored by MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and Union College researchers documents the existence of collective intelligence among groups of people who cooperate well, showing that such intelligence extends beyond the cognitive abilities of the groups’ individual members and that the tendency to cooperate effectively is linked to the number of women in a group.”

Whether you are a woman or a man – these research findings may get you thinking.  Maybe questions like these below can help you think about yourself and the groups you function in.

        What does it mean to cooperate well?

What ‘gifts’ might women bring to groups to help the groups be more intelligent    than the sum of the intelligence of the collective individuals in a group?

How appreciative am I of the contributions of women (other than myself – if I am a woman) to groups I engage with? How might I become more appreciative?

Specifically for me, what ‘growth edges’ should I address so that I can improve and further develop my skills, abilities, and dispositions to show-up in groups as  an effective collaborator?

 Can I cooperate more honestly and effectively when I am in groups? If your answer is “yes” then the next question might be: specifically how?

 Can I cooperate more productively in groups by developing my skills and dispositions as a person who effectively listens for understanding? If your answer is “yes” then the next question might be: specifically how?

What information should I be reading, watching or seeking out in general that will         help me to develop as a cooperative team member?

Do I have any know behaviors, attitudes or dispositions that keep me from valuing women when they are part of groups I engage in and with?   If your answer is “yes” then the next question might be: what am I going to do address those behaviors, attitudes or dispositions?

My belief is that each of us is a ‘work in progress’. I also believe that when we identify our ‘growth edges’ and are intentional in our behaviors, attitudes or dispositions we can growth and development.

This study shines a bright light on the real value of cooperation in group work. We can grow in our abilities to learn from and contribute to and work cooperatively in groups.

This study validates the significance of having women in groups that cooperate. The study doesn’t say, a woman, it says women: Potentially, many women.  Thus, when we (men or women) from groups it is important to have women in the group.  And of course, if the group does not have a cooperative style – say it is a ‘top down’ or argumentative ‘last person standing’ style – such a group clearly would not be a cooperative group.

Any time the sum of the whole can be expanded by something we can control – like getting very good at cooperation and like be sure to have women in groups – I say “let’s get on with it!!!!

Be intentional about connecting – mind-to-mind

The complexity of today’s world is daunting. There are no simple responses to the issues of: education, health care, the economy, poverty or many of the other challenges we face.  We may want to believe that independent thinking is a how each of us should sort through the complexity.

Yet, I truly believe that we need to think together.  Interdependent thinking is not common. Moreover, the concept of truly weaving our thinking together with the thinking of others is challenging.  Thinking together is not simple or easy.  And, it is something we all can benefit from.

Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman in their chapter – Creating Communities of Thought: Skills, Tasks, and Practices pages 62 & 63, found in The Power of the Social Brain by Costa and O’Leary, Teachers College Press, 2013 write: “Rich, meaningful collaboration is both complex and challenging.

Three compelling reasons for meeting these demands include:

1.    The lone genius is a myth.

Regardless of whether the field is physics, biology or linguistics, teams of researchers, not individuals, make scientific breakthroughs.  Significant studies are no longer produced by a lone genius like Einstein or Darwin.  In fact, papers with at least 100 citations, or “home-run” papers, are more than six times likely to come from teams of scientists. The group is the unit of work.  Insight and innovation emerge from interdependent thinking.

2.    The most interesting mysteries lie at the intersection of minds.

Novel solutions are necessary to address increasingly complex problems.  For example, the study of sustainable agriculture combines the fields of biology, agronomy, sociology, and climatology in a multidisciplinary response to world hunger. Overwhelming problems are too messy for individuals to solve independently.  The collective imagination is more expansive than any individual vision.  The cross-fertilization of divergent minds generates possibilities beyond the limits of isolated thinkers.

3.    Accountability grows out of co-creation.

Collective construction of understanding around data, problems, and plans inspires commitment to action.  A greater degree of participation in the genesis of decisions produces a greater likelihood of follow-through.  Given the challenges of multiple demands and conflicting priorities, individuals need to make choices about use of their time, attention, and energy.  When group membership is valued, the values of the group prevail.  Identity as a group member increases accountability to the group and the group’s goals.  Our goals become my goals.”

Maybe their thoughts can inspire others to: 1. bust the myth that “some genus is out there and will get us out of this”, 2. get good at contributing to the cross-fertilization of divergent thought to generate new possibilities, and 3. strive to “show up” and be part of and contribute to a collective construction of understanding.

Connecting Mind to Mind
Life is full of differences: different priorities, customs and thinking
Living and/or working together is full of challenges: We can think through them or not
Thinking interdependently means we invest in the idea that good can come from diversity of thought
We need to connect: mind-to-mind
Connecting mind-to-mind will serve the common good
Connecting mind-to-mind is not going to just happen
Connecting mind-to-mind requires developing new processes
We must be intentional about connecting – mind-to-mind
Poem by Jerry Jennings from The Power of the Social Brain, page xi, Teachers College Press (2013)